It’s pretty clear to me that I’m no food writer – my brain seizes up when I try to write about food, and I end up turning to tired food clichés and most loathed words (‘moist’ being the one in particular that makes me shudder) so I daren’t even try. There are lots of great food bloggers out there, after all.
However, obviously I eat and I love to grow my own fruit and vegetables so I thought it might be a nice idea to link my allotment gardening with a few ideas on how to cook and eat particular fruit or vegetables that are in season. These will be web-links, cookbook recipes and recommendations for other food bloggers. I’m starting today, and we’ll see how I get on. If nothing else, it’ll be the impetus I need to keep on top of the allotment weeding and watering! There’s really nothing nicer than being able to feed yourself and your family with something you’ve grown yourself. Even if all you’ve got room for is herbs on a windowsill, I highly recommend it.
Broad beans are one of the easier beans to grow. They cope well with the cold and in fact they’ll be fine in the ground over winter if you cover them with a cloche or some fleecing when there’s a hard frost. In fact, I sometimes forget to cover mine, and they’ve always survived. If you sow them in Autumn, they’ll start to grow, then just slow down over the winter months, before a growth burst in Spring that will hopefully have you picking beans in May. Or you can start them off in April, and a few months’ later, be ready to pick your crop.
Sow the seed about 5cm deep, roughly 20cm apart. You can sow directly into the ground in Autumn or Spring, although I sometimes sow seeds into tubes (old loo rolls are a favourite!) in our unheated greenhouse to get them started off before planting out in the Spring.
Most tall varieties will need a support of some kind – although I freely admit that I forgot to stake mine up this year. The plants are therefore all over the place, with bent-out-of-shape stalks – but they’re still producing!
The black and white flowers on your beans are attractive to aphids, so you might need to pinch out the tops of your plants to get rid of them. A couple of inches (5 cm) off the top of early plant growth will do the trick and will also encourage your plants to grow strongly and produce more beans.
I like to grow dwarfing varieties of broad beans too. These ones won’t need any kind of plant support and do well in pots, so they’re ideal if you don’t have lots of space or if you live somewhere exposed and windy – they won’t get knocked about so much.
My favourite varieties include ‘The Sutton’ which is a dwarfing variety, ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ – an old heritage variety, Masterpiece, and ‘Stereo’, which is great for thinner pods.
Broad beans grow well from stored seed too. Simply dry out some of your beans, once you’ve podded them. When they’re completely dry, put them into a paper bag, label it with the date and variety so you don’t forget, then store it somewhere nice and dry and you’ve got seed to sow next year!
Podded from their soft jackets, broad beans can be eaten raw when they’re nice and young. When boiled, the bean goes rather a grey-ish colour, but if you’re feeling particularly decadent, you can double-pod them, leaving a tiny bright green inner bean.
If you pick them super-early, and choose a variety like ‘Stereo’, you can also eat them whole, like mange tout. Make sure you pick them when they’re no longer than about 3 inches long if you’re going to do that though.
The easiest way I like to eat them is simply mashed up with a little black pepper and lemon onto a piece of bruschetta-style toast, drizzled with a good extra virgin olive oil.
I also like to make broad bean pesto, using a recipe from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook.
Mark Hix’s broad bean hummous looks good.
A handful of easy recipes from Delicious magazine here too.
Finally – Post Punk Kitchen does broad (fava) beans… This is an amazing site for vegan food.
And if you have too many broad beans, they freeze well – just pod them and freeze them raw.
Do you have any favourite broad bean growing tips or recipes? Do share them!
Also if you’re a grower and eater, I’m happy to have some guest writers for this series of posts. Come and share photos of the fruit and vegetables you’ve grown and tell us how you love to eat them! See my Contact page for how to get in touch…